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Let's face it, the floors in your house take a lot of abuse. Dirty shoes pile up in the entryway, muddy paws scamper through each hallway, and even chair legs scrape across your dining room on a daily basis. So, if you're considering new flooring, you'll need to think about how you use each room before you make any decisions. Hardwood or carpeting might be great for one room, but the same isn't always true across the hall.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
Protect your mudroom — and ultimately the rest of your house — by putting down easy-to-clean flooring that will also catch dirt. Interior designer Julia Buckingham suggests porcelain or ceramic tiles, since they're durable and low-maintenance. Simply sweep or vacuum them to clean up debris, and tackle bigger messes with a mop or Swiffer. A dark-colored sisal or sea grass rug over the tile can help trap (and hide) the dirt, she adds. Just beware: Tile can crack if you drop something on it, so caution is necessary. And white grout can become discolored if it's not properly cleaned — but luckily, dark grout is pretty trendy right now.
Go for something that will be soft underfoot so kids can sit, lay, and play. "I suggest a low, tightly woven — almost industrial — loop or cut area rug or wall-to-wall carpet," says Carolyn Forte, director of the Home Appliances and Cleaning Products lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute. "Look for something in an easy-to-clean fiber like polypropylene or nylon." Buckingham also recommends the carpet tiles which can be arranged in all sorts of sizes and patterns. "You build with individual tiles that can be easily cleaned or replaced," she says.
People put a lot of stock into having hardwood flooring throughout the house, but the truth is, it's not the comfiest on bare feet in the morning. If you're redoing your room, Forte says you should go for a premium plush, super-soft carpet. If you already have hardwood, you can still create that cozy vibe: "I love the look and feel of a gorgeous alpaca or silk-and-wool rug over hardwood flooring in the bedroom to create a luxurious retreat," says Buckingham.
"There are lots of beautiful, low-pile carpets and rugs in interesting patterns and colors," says Forte, who points out that these sorts of carpets hold up better to high traffic than plush ones. And good news: An office chair should be able to roll around without one of those unsightly plastic mats. Buckingham also suggests hardwood flooring with a flat-weave rug, which will be welcoming and still stand up to a chair with rolling wheels.
Hardwood flooring is your best bet — and you can get creative with inlays or even a fun herringbone pattern. "A quick sweeping and vacuuming paired with an occasional mopping will keep it clean," says Buckingham, who adds that you should always ask the installer for care instructions because various woods may have different specifications. And don't worry about a little bit of aging: "Wood is like wine — it gets better over the years and develops a beautiful patina."
Hardwood wins here, too, and wear can add character over time. "The wood can always be refinished if necessary," says Buckingham. You can also consider a dense area rug for under the table. They're durable and easy to clean when spills happen — and you know they will.
"Bamboo flooring or tiles hold up well if you have pets running around pets," says Buckingham. Area rugs layered on top can easily be cleaned of pet hair and stains — and are easily replaced if necessary. Wall-to-wall carpeting can be more of a headache, but don't rule it out if you love it. "It's best to choose a cut pile versus loop carpet, so your pet's nails don't snag the loops and cause the carpet to wear faster," she adds. Opt for a stain-resistant carpet and also be mindful of your color choice. If you have a pup or cat that sheds, consider choosing a hue that coordinates with his fur.
Almost every expert will agree that the bathroom is no place for wall-to-wall carpet. "There's too much moisture and opportunities for spills with cosmetics and toiletries," says Forte. "It can get nasty and difficult to clean. And water trapped under the carpet can lead to mold." If you recoil at chill underfoot, look into heated tile, which can cost up to $200 for a radiant floor mat or around $1,000 for a professional installation.
Look beyond light and dark woods and consider a grey hardwood flooring option. "Grey has been the new neutral in interior design and I believe you will see more of this hue in flooring as well," says Buckingham. Forte says she's also been seeing more cork flooring and vinyl designed to look like real wood. All of these options are super durable, so they'll last well into the next few trend cycles.